About this Show

Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden An NBC News Exclusive

Brian Williams travels to Moscow to talk with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who has been living in exile since leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs.

NETWORK
NBC

DURATION
01:01:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel v703

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
1920

PIXEL HEIGHT
1080

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Russia 15, Edward Snowden 15, Nsa 11, United States 7, Moscow 5, U.s. 5, America 4, Hawaii 4, Nbc News 4, Warfarin 4, Hong Kong 4, Glenn Greenwald 3, Rangers 2, Fbi 2, Honda 2, Iraq 2, Mark Klein 2, Keith Alexander 2, Ysleeping 2, Latin America 1,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  NBC    Inside the Mind of Edward Snowden An NBC News Exclusive    Brian Williams travels to Moscow to talk with former NSA  
   contractor Edward Snowden, who has been living in exile since...  

    May 28, 2014
    10:00 - 11:01pm PDT  

10:00pm
tonight, edward snowden's first interview on american television. >> former nsa director has said you have done significant and irreversible damage to the nation. >> the man who stall nsa secrets talks about what drove him to do it. >> sometimes to do the right thing you have to break a le. >> and how he ended up in exile in russia. >> people are going to find it hard to believe that president putin hasn't taken a run at you or what you know. >> tonight, the man who insists he is a trained spy. >> i'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker. >> and is wanted for espionage while insisting he's a patriot is. >> you hear often in the united states why doesn't he come home
10:01pm
and face the music? >> from nbc news, "inside the mind of edward snowden." good evening. i'm brian williams. he is routinely called the most wanted man in the world. last week in moscow, cloaked in secrecy and after months of behind-the-scenes back and forth, we sat down with edward snowden for his first american television interview. let's begin with a reminder of what this 30-year-old has done and why he's living in exile overseas, wanted for espionage in this country. the classified documents he stole, downloaded from the nsa and handed over to journalists blew the lid off data mining programs that had been launched in the wake of and in the name of 9/11. they have names like prism and boundless informant and xkeyscore. some of them designed to vacuum up phone and internet data are from companies like verizon and
10:02pm
google and apple and yahoo! and some of them could zero in on any one of us. snowden came to this interview armed with talking points, ready to tell his story. he knew he would be receiving no compensation and no question was off limits. already just today based on prereleased snippets of what you're about to see secretary of state john kerry launched a full-on fredricton it wiontal a snowden calling him a traitor, challenging hill to come home to face justice. we'll hear what edward snowden has to say about that. he arrived alone carrying only a backpack into our moscow hotel. he came up a back stairway into the elevator. the moment he sat down and our camera focused on him, it became clear that this was the first good long look at him the world had had. we saw him framed against the hotel window in hong kong and
10:03pm
appearing from undisclosed locations on closed circuit video. he was here now, introducing himself as ed. a lot of people say you have badly damaged your country. >> can you show that? is there any dman vaemonstratio? i have been asking for a year now. if after a year they can't show a single individual who has been harmed in any way by this reporting, is it really so grave? is it really so serious? can we really trust those claims without scrutinizing them? i would argue we can't. we should be open to them. it's fair, the possibility. if this has caused serious harm, i plirwould like to know about >> keith alexander has said you have done, quote, significant and irreversible damage to the nation. he said there is, quote, concrete truth that terrorist groups and others are taking action and making changes and it's going to make our job tougher.
10:04pm
and this amounts to telling our enemy our playbook. >> so what's interesting is that we see the exact same language, the exact same accusations being levelled against whistleblowers, against any critic of any government program throughout history, throughout time. >> what are you doing in russia? >> all right. so this is a really fair concern. i personally am surprised that i ended up here.
the reality is i never intended to end up in russia. i had a flight from cuba to latin america. the united states revoked my passport to trap me in the moscow airport. when people ask why are you in russia, i say please ask the state department. >> the u.s. state department says snowden's passport was pulled before he boarded that flight to moscow and yet he was
10:05pm
somehow still able to leave hong kong, a city he had chosen to fly to initially upon leaving the u.s. >> a formerly high ranking american official said if snowden's equivalent russian kid was in our hands in the united states we would be working mightily to, a, befriend him and, absent that, infiltrate what hes has, what he knows. what has your relationship been to the host nation? have you met putin? have you spoken with him? >> i have no relationship with the russian government at all. i have never met the russian president. i'm not supported by the raugs governme -- russian government. i'm not taking money from the russian government. i'm not a spy. the best way to make sure, for example, the russians can't break my fingers and compromise information or hit me with a bag
10:06pm
of money until i give them something was not to have it at all. the way to do it was by destroying material i was holding before i transited through russia. >> people are going to find it hard to believe that president putin hasn't taken a run at you or what you know. you can state declaratively that that hasn't happened? >> yeah. i mean, the way -- the way to think about this is, again, i already know how to deal with counterintelligence.
beyond that, i took nothing to russia, so i could give them mothing. >> you say you're not carrying around any of the materials. you are handing them off. if i gave you a laptop, could you access the documents? >> no, no. >> no, you couldn't remotely, electronically access material? >> no. >> it's gone from your control? >> right. i don't have any control -- let's put it this way. if i'm traveling through
10:07pm
russia -- and i know i'm traveling through russia and they have a very aggressive, very professional service. and i look like tweety bird to sylvester the cat, a little walking chicken leg with all the documents if i have control over that, that's a very dangerous thing for me. >> we'll take our first break here. up next when we continue, the impact of 9/11 on edward snowden. >> in 2004 i joined the u.s. army. i was injured very early on in the program and washed out. ! i . i missed you, too. hi buddy. mom! awesome! dad!! i missed you. ♪ oh... daddy. chevrolet and its dealers proudly support military appreciation month. with the industry's best military purchase program, for all that have served.
10:08pm
so, if you're what ysleeping in your is youcontact lenses, ask about the air optix® contacts so breathable they're approved for up to 30 nights of continuous wear. ask your doctor about safety information as serious eye problems may occur. visit airoptix.com for a free one-month trial. are kept at theirt peak by freezing.ables because freezing is nature's pause button. but do you know what else it keeps at their peak? the just crafted, just baked meals you'll find in your freezer aisle. take a fresh look at frozen. it's how delicious stays delicious. frozen. how fresh stays fresh. hungry for more? go to howfreshstaysfresh.com be a sound sleeper, or...l you a mouth breather? well, put on a breathe right strip and instantly open your nose up to 38% more than allergy medicines alone. so you can breathe and sleep. shut your mouth and sleep right. breathe right.
10:09pm
but they don't yet know we're a family. we're right where you need us. at the next job, next adventure or at the next exit helping you explore super destinations and do everything under the sun. 12 brands. more hotels than anyone else in the world. so wherever you want to be, whatever you want to do, chances are we're already there. save up to 25% and earn bonus points when you book at wyndhamrewards.com.
10:10pm
going back almost a year to when this story first broke, edward snowden was defined early on, and not altogether accurately. the president famously called him a hacker. we in the news media passed along and repeated terms like systems analyst and outside contractor that didn't really mean all that much and according
10:11pm
to snowden didn't really describe what he did for a living. >> how do you define yourself? e you -- were you trained as a spy? specifically i'm talking about the titles systems analyst, contractor. it seems to me spies probably look a lot more like ed snowden and a lot less like james bond these days. >> well, it's no secret that the u.s. tends to get more and better intelligence out of
computers nowadays than they do out of people. i was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word. i lived and worked undercover, overseas pretending to work in a job that i'm not and even being assigned a name that was not mine. now the government might deny these things, frame it in certain ways and say, oh, he's a low level analyst but what they are trying to do is they are trying to use one position that i have had in a career here or
10:12pm
there to distract from the totality of my experience which is that i have worked for the central intelligence agency undercover overseas. i have worked for the national security agency undercover overseas. and i have worked for the defense intelligence agency as a lecturer at the joint counterintelligence training academy where i developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world. so when they say i'm a low level systems administrator that i don't know what i'm talking about i'd say it's somewhat misleading. >> snowden said his life changed when he was still a teenager on the worst day in modern american history. >> what did 9/11 mean to you? >> i have never told anybody this. no journalist. but i was on ft. meade on september 11th. i was right outside the nsa, so i remember, i remember the tension of that day.
10:13pm
i remember hearing on the radio the planes hitting. and i remember thinking my grandfather who worked for the fbi at the time was in the pentagon when the plane hit it. i take the threat of terrorism seriously, and i think we all do, and i think it's really disingenuous for the government to invoke and sort of scandalize our memories. to sort of exploit the national trauma that we all suffered
together and worked so hard to come through to justify programs that have never been shown to keep us safe but cost us liberties and freedoms that we don't need to give up, and our constitution says we should not give up. >> then there is this way of looking at it -- our nation had been attacked in this nonlinear way. we were hurting.
10:14pm
post pearl harbor hurting. why not cast the widest net possible? innocent people around the country were -- all felt the same way. i've got nothing to hide. we've got to find this enemy we can't see. >> the definition of a security state is any nation that prioritizes security over all other considerations. i don't believe the united
states is or ever should be a security state. ife want to be free we can't become subject to surveillance. we can't give away our privacy. we can't give away our rights. we have to be an active party. we have to be an active part of our government. and we have to say there are some things worth dying for. i think the country is one of them. >> like a lot of young men in
10:15pm
our country, and especially given the fact that your grandfather was at the fbi, your dad's a vet. like a lot of young men across america you wanted to join up, and you did. >> in 2004, i joined the u.s. army under the 18 x-ray special forces recruit program. i have to give high respect to everyone many the military and the graduates of those programs.
they are better men than i. i was injured very early on in the program and i washed out. you know, i readily admit it, i don't hide that. >> snowden reportedly left the military after breaking both of his legs in training. >> the fact is that i tried. you know, i saw what was going on in the world. i believed the government's arguments that we were going to do good things in iraq, that we were going to free the oppressed. and i wanted to do my part to help share the national burden and create not just a better
10:16pm
america but a better world. the problem was, as time went on, as i rose to higher and higher levels of the intelligence community, i gained more and more access, as i saw more and more classified information at the highest levels. i realized that so many of the things that we're told by the government simply aren't true. much like the arguments about
aluminum tubes and weapons of mass destruction in iraq, colin powell's speech about the vial of anthrax that saddam was going to bring against us. the iraq war i signed up for was launched on false premises. the american people were misled. now, whether that was due to bad faith or simply mistakes of intelligence, i can't say for sure, but i can say it shows the problem of putting too much
10:17pm
faith in intelligence systems without debating them in public. >> we'll take another break here. coming up, how edward snowden says the nsa can reach into our lives via our phones. >> as soon as you turn it on it can be theirs. they can turn it into a microphone, take pictures from it. ♪
10:18pm
honestly, the off-season isn't really off for me. i've got a lot to do. that's why i got my surface. it's great for watching game film and drawing up plays. it's got onenote,
10:19pm
so i can stay on top of my to-do list, which has been absolutely absurd since the big game. with skype, it's just really easy to stay in touch with the kids i work with. alright, russell you are good to go! alright, fellas. alright, russ. back to work!
10:20pm
welcome back. in the name of 9/11, the government was now able, if they wanted to, to use our computers to reach into american lives and american homes unbeknownst to the citizens of this country. over time, edward snowden says he started thinking it was a perversion of the war on terrorism.
10:21pm
whatever you think of him, what edward snowden told us about spying on our data and our personal devices was chilling. and as an example, we used the phone in my hand. >> i want to ask you about this device. this is not my iphone. this is what drug dealers resort to. this is called a burner. it's a temporary. it's the one i brought to cover the olympics because our i.t. people told me that the russians are so good at infiltration. how good? and how good are the americans? what can the nsa do with this device, if they wanted to get into my life? >> so, first off, that's probably the most expensive burner i have ever seen. but i guess we are at the up market of drug dealers here.
10:22pm
>> this is turned off. it's inert. >> right. the nsa, the russian intelligence service, the chinese intelligence service, any intelligence service in the world that has significant funding and a real technological research team can own that phone the minute it connects to their network. as soon as you turn it on, it can be theirs. they can turn it into a microphone. they can take pictures from it, they can take the data off of it. but it's important to understand that these things are typically done on a targeted basis. right? it's only done when people go, this phone is suspicious. i think it's being held by a drug dealer. i think it is being used by a terrorist. >> can anyone turn it on remotely if it's off? can they turn on apps? did anyone know or care that i googled the final score of the rangers/canadiens game last night because i was traveling here? >> i would say yes to all of those. they can absolutely turn them on with the power turned off the
10:23pm
device. that's pretty scary. the thing about the rangers game is also scary. you might say, does anybody care that i'm looking up the score for the rangers game? well, a government or a hacker or some other nefarious individual would say yes. they're very interested in that because that tells a lot about you. first off, it tells you probably speak english. it says you're probably an american.
you're interested in this sport. they might know what your habits are. where were you in the world when you checked the score? do you check it when you travel? do you check it when you're at home? they'd be able to tell something called your pattern of life. when are you doing these activities? when do you wake up? when do you go to sleep? what other phones are around you when you wake up and go to sleep? are you with someone who's not your wife? are you doing something, are you someplace you shouldn't be according to government, which
10:24pm
is arbitrary, you know? are you engaged in any kind of activities we disapprove of, even if they aren't technically illegal? all of these things can raise your level of scrutiny. even if it seems entirely innocent to you, even if you have nothing to hide, even if you're doing nothing wrong. these activities can be misconstrued, misinterpreted and used to harm you as an individual. even without the government having any intent to do you wrong. the problem is that the capabilities, themselves, are unregulated, uncontrolled, and dangerous. >> all because i googled rangers/canadiens final score? >> exactly. >> snowden says he was astonished at the access he had at his fingertips most notably including a computer program that as he put it could get inside your thought process. >> when i think about an instance that really just struck me as, oh, my god, we can do this.
10:25pm
and we can do it to anyone was that people at nsa, analysts, can actually watch people's internet communications. watch them draft correspondence and actually watch their thoughts form as they type. as you write a message, you know, an analyst at the nsa or any other service out there that's using this kind of attack against people can actually see you write sentences and backspace over your mistakes then change the words and then kind of pause and think about what you wanted to say and then change it. it's this extraordinary intrusion not just into your communications, your finished messages but your actual drafting process, into the way you think. >> you must have been aware spying is sometimes called a dirty business. lives have been taken and unsavory deeds have been committed. >> you know, i don't think anybody who's been in the
10:26pm
intelligence community for almost a decade as i have been, is really shocked by the specific types of general operations when they are justified. what's more shocking for anybody is not the dirtiness of the business. it's the dirtiness of the targeting. it's the dirtiness of the way these things are being used. it's the lack of respect for the public because -- the lack of respect for the intrusiveness of surveillance. >> when the president and others have made the point that you should have gone through channels, become a whistleblower and not pursued the route you did, what's your response? >> i actually did go through channels. and that is documented. the nsa has records. they have copies of e-mails
10:27pm
right now to their office of general counsel, to their oversight and compliance folks from me raising concerns about the nsa's interpretations of its legal authorities. now, i have raised these complaints not just officially, in writing through e-mail to these offices and individuals, but to my supervisors, to my colleagues. in more than one office. i did it in ft. meade. i did it in hawaii. and many, many of these individuals were shocked by
these programs. they had never seen them themselves. and the ones who had went, you know, you're right. these are things that are really concerning. these aren't things we should be doing. maybe we're going too far here, but if you say something about this, they're going to destroy you. do you know what happens to people who stand up and talk about this? >> what did you report? what was the response? >> so i reported that there were real problems with the way the nsa was interpreting its legal
10:28pm
authorities. and the response more or less in bureaucratic language was you should stop asking questions. and these are recent records. this isn't ancient history. i would say one of my final official acts in government was continuing one of these communications with a legal office. and, in fact, i'm so sure that these communications exist that i've called on congress to write a letter to the nsa to verify that they do. write to their office of general counsel and say, did mr. snowden ever communicate any concerns about the nsa's interpretation of its legal authorities? >> now about that last point there about the paper trail that snowden says exists within the n sarks. so far, nbc news learned from multiple sources that snowden did indeed send at least one e-mail to the general counsel's office raising policy and legal
10:29pm
questions. we have filed a request under the freedom of information act to look for any other records. and when we continue here tonight, the question, are the secrets of the u.s. military safe? >> i'm a human being. i could make mistakes. i could make the wrong call. i was taking warfarin but wondered, could i focus on something better? my doctor told me about eliquis for three important reasons. one, in a clinical trial eliquis was proven to reduce the risk of stroke better than warfarin. two, eliquis had less major bleeding than warfarin. and three, unlike warfarin there's no routine blood testing. [ male announcer ] don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke.
10:30pm
eliquis can cause serious, and in rare cases, fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking eliquis you may bruise more easily and it may take longer than usual for any bleeding to stop. seek immediate medical care for sudden signs of bleeding like unusual bruising. eliquis may increase your bleeding risk if you take certain medicines. tell your doctor about all planned medical or dental procedures. those three important reasons are why i'm shooting for something better. eliquis. [ male announcer ] ask your doctor today if eliquis is right for you.
10:31pm
[ male announcer ] ask your doctor today firsrefused all debates.rnly now honda's slinging mud, launching false attacks. isn't it time to put the old politics aside?
10:32pm
the chronicle endorses ro khanna, saying he "offers an upgrade in congress for silicon valley." and the mercury news says, "ro khanna is ready for the congress of tomorrow... ...while honda is a politician of the past." for our future: ro khanna. khanna: i'm ro khanna and i approve this message.
10:33pm
and welcome back. as we enter our second half hour, as we continue to hear from edward snowden, part of a wide-ranging conversation taped a week ago in moscow. we have already heard some extraordinary things, but as you will you, he's not done yet. >> i'm doing this to serve my country. i'm still working for the government. being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country. if i could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home. >> edward snowden's last posting
10:34pm
was in hawaii. there he rented a house where he lived with his girlfriend and performed electronic surveillance for the nsa. it was said he took his last position to gain access to the final documents he wanted to steal and then leak. >> how long prior to leaving hawaii did you start to say to yourself, i'm going to gather this, i'm going to put this away, i'm going to expose this? >> i think given the ongoing investigation that something better not to get into in a news interview, but i would be happy to discuss these things with the government. >> what is the number? what is the closest you've come to estimating the number of documents? >> i will say the 1.7 million documents figure that the intelligence community has been bandying about, the director of nsa himself keith alexander said
10:35pm
just a week ago in the australian financial times, or australian financial review, i believe, that they have no idea what documents were taken at all. their auditing was so poor, so negligent that any private contractor, not even an employee of the government could walk into the nsa building, take whatever they wanted, and walk out with it and they would never know. now, i think that's a problem. and i think that's something that needs to be resolved. people need to be held to account for. has it happened before? could it happen again? >> what didn't you grab? was there a threshold? >> right. i didn't want to take information that would basically be taken and thrown out in the press that would cause harm to individuals, that would cause people to die, that would put lives at risk. so a good gauge of what information was provided to the journalists is a representation
10:36pm
of what you see in the press. now, the nsa and the defense intelligence agency and some of these other organizations have claimed that lives are at risk, that all this military information was out there, that, you know, i took all this information about missiles and warheads and tanks, but we don't see any of that in the newspaper. we haven't seen any stories on that. >> snowden turned over the secret documents to glenn greenwald a lawyer turned journalist and laura poitras, a
documentary filmmaker both of whom traveled to russia for our interview. in his recently published book "no place to hide" greenwald describes that moment he first met snowden in hong kong. >> what did you make of him? >> the initial impression was one of extreme confusion. because i was expecting to meet somebody in his 60s or 70s, very senior. i knew almost nothing about him prior to our arrival in hong kong. >> it was a really intimidating
10:37pm
moment. you know, it was the most real point of no return because the minute you start talking to a journalist as an intelligence officer, on camera, there's really no going back from that. that's where it all comes together. >> also, you had this tangible evidence. in effect he was saying to you if i wasn't legit, where else would i have gotten this? >> right. that was certainly a good start to establishing his credibility and his authenticity was the fact he was able to produce many thousands of documents from the most secretive agency of the world's most powerful government. but at the same time there were questions about the authenticity of those documents, the providence, the motives that led to his taking them and what it was that he would say when he identified himself to the world as the source. >> by handing over the documents to journalists, snowden said he
10:38pm
wanted to put some space between himself and what he himself stole from government computers. he wanted others to break the stories and do the reporting and check to see which stories might cause undue harm. >> and that's the reason that the journalists have been required by their agreement with me as the source, although they could obviously break that or do whatever they want, but i demanded that they agreed to consult with the government to make sure no individuals or specific harms could be caused by any of that reporting. >> that includes nbc news which has reported on its own batch of snowden documents and has a reporting relationship with glenn greenwald. >> when it comes to specific stories about the specific collection programs, about specific targets, these aren't decided by me. these are decided by newspapers. >> you see the part of this and for a lay audience looking on, they know that this came from you. the bulk release to the
10:39pm
journalists came from you. they are guessing that you had decisions to make within what you had access to, so then they hear you saying, i didn't put that out, the journalists did. >> right. that's a fair question. you know, anyone can second guess my judgment. again, i'm a human being. i could make mistakes. i could make the wrong call. but the reality is the situation determined that this needed to be told to the public. >> to your knowledge, there is nothing in what you have handed over to the journalists materially damaging or threatening to the military or national security? >> there is nothing that would be published that would harm the public interest. these are programs that need to be understood, that need to be known, that require deep background and context for research. they are difficult to report. but they are of critical public importance. >> just for clarification here note that snowden didn't deny
10:40pm
turning over military secrets. he asserted instead they wouldn't be published. another break. when we continue, how snowden justifies what he did. >> there have been times throughout american history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. is legal.to do the right thing sometimes to do the right thing you have to break a law. ork. oh, it's unbelievable. fewer dropped calls, better call quality... it's fast, right? sprint a un tout nouveau réseau lte avec un spectre tri-bande. you can also text. yes. you can also text. it's tres good. okay. i, i don't know where to go with that. [ male announcer ] join america's newest network, now with faster speeds, fewer dropped calls and better call quality. and for a limited time, get a switching bonus worth up to $650. happy connecting, from sprint. cozy or cool? "meow" or "woof"? exactly the way you want it ... until boom, it's bedtime! your mattress is a battleground of
10:41pm
thwarted desire. enter the sleep number bed, designed to let couples sleep together in individualized comfort. he's the softy. his sleep number setting is 35. you're the rock, at 60. and snoring? sleep number's even got an adjustment for that. you can only find sleep number at a sleep number store. and right now all beds are on sale starting at just $649.99. hurry in, sale ends sunday! know better sleep with sleep number. makes everything algood even better...ilk from the bowls of cereal you make... to all the delicious recipes you bake. because inside every carton is the goodness of blue diamond almonds. almond breeze. almondiciously good!
10:42pm
10:43pm
on the range between ticker tape parade and life sentence, what do you think ought to happen to you if and when you return to the united states? >> these are things that no individual should empower themselves to really decide. you know, i'm going to give myself a parade. but neither am i going to walk into a jail cell to serve as a bad example for other people in government who see something
10:44pm
happening, some violation of the constitution who think they need to say something about it. >> you hear often in the united states are why doesn't he come home and face the music? >> it's a fair question. why doesn't he face charges? but it's also uninformed. because what has been lain against me aren't normal charges. they are extraordinary charges. we have seen more charges under
the espionage act in the last administration than we have in all other administrations in american history. the espionage act provides anyone accused of it of no chance to make a public defense. you are not allowed to argue based on all the evidence in your favor because that evidence may be classified, even if the it is exculpatory. when people say why don't you face the music, i say you have to understand the music is not
10:45pm
an open court and a fair trial. >> what would you do if you had an audience with the president right now? what would you say? >> i would leave advising the president to his advisers. that's -- i wouldn't presume to place myself on the level to be able to suggest what his course of action should be. >> would you ask him if you could come home free and clear? >> i think that's a decision he'll weigh and decide based on what he believes would serve the public interest. i think that's proper and appropriate. >> in your mind though, are you blameless? have you done, as you look at this, just a good thing? have you performed, as you see it, a public service? >> i think it can be both. i think the most important idea
10:46pm
is to remember that there have been times throughout american history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. sometimes to do the right thing you have to break a law. and the key there is in terms of civil disobedience. you have to make sure that what you are risking, what you are bringing onto yourself doesn't serve as a detriment to anybody else, it doesn't hurt anybody else. if you are volunteering yourself to be used as a negative example, to spend a lifetime in prison rather than to spend a time in prison -- a short period where you will come out, advocate, emerge stronger and inspire other people to resist these policiese spolicies, are good or bad? >> legal sources tell nbc news that snowden's legal team has been in contact with the government's lawyers, but negotiations have not yet begun. >> are you looking for clemency or amnesty? would you like to go home?
10:47pm
>> i don't think there has ever been any question that i would like to go home. from day one i have said i'm doing this to serve my country. i'm still working for the government. now whether amnesty or clemency becomes a possibility is not for me to say. that's a debate for the public and the government to decide. but if i could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home. >> and when we continue, an american in russia. edward snowden talks about what his life is like now in exile and how he feels about coming home. >> i think it's important to remember that people don't set their lives on fire and burn down everything they love for no reason. show 'em the curve. ♪ do you know what this means? the greater the curvature, the bigger the difference. [sci-fi tractor beam sound] ...sucked me right in... it's beautiful. gotta admit one thing...
10:48pm
...can't beat the view. ♪ introducing the world's first curved ultra high definition television from samsung. smoke?
10:49pm
nah, i'm good. [ male announcer ] celebrate every win with nicoderm cq, the unique patch with time release smartcontrol technology that helps prevent the urge to smoke all day long. help prevent your cravings with nicoderm cq. so, if you're what ysleeping in your tis youcontact lenses, the urge to smoke all day long. ask about the air optix® contacts so breathable they're approved for up to 30 nights of continuous wear. ask your doctor about safety information as serious eye problems may occur. visit airoptix.com for a free one-month trial. ♪ led to the one jobhing you always wanted. at university of phoenix, we believe every education- not just ours- should be built around the career that you want. imagine that.
10:50pm
. this is a big cultural change. you, in effect, moved to russia from hawaii. what is your life like? >> you know, it's -- it is a major cultural gap. it requires adjustment. but even though i didn't choose to be here, even though, you know, circumstances really trapped me here, i can adapt. i can live life as an american more or less. that's the beauty of the internet. we are no longer tied to our communities merely by, you know, miz ca
10:51pm
physical connections. right now i'm watching a show, "the wire." i'm really enjoying it. second season, not so great, but -- >> what do you make of the fact that president putin's standing in the world, let's say, has changed so dramatically during the time you have been here? >> it's really frustrating for someone who is working so hard to expand the domain of our
rights and our privacy to end up stuck in a place where those rights are being challenged in ways that i would consider deeply unfair. the recent bloggers' registration law in russia, i can't think of any basis for a law like that. not just in russia, but any country. the government shouldn't regulate the operations of a free press whether it is nbc or some blogger in their living room.
10:52pm
there is so much that needs to be defended here in russia, but i am limited by my inability to speak russian and so on that it's an isolating and frustrating thing. i really hope that russia, the united states and many other countries will work to push back against this constantly increasing surveillance, this constant erosion and abrasion of public rights. >> correct me if i'm wrong. the arc of your life is you went
from signing up for the military of after 9/11, in effect saying you were willing to die for your country to then telling people you half expected to die via abduction or assassination after what you have done in this instance. that's a pretty dramatic arc since 2003, 2004. >> i think that's actually a
10:53pm
solid representation of the dramatic arcs that have happened within our government in the same period. do you think our government has changed since 9/11? have the policies changed? has civil engagement with the government changed? have our politics changed? are things radically different in terms of partisanship? there have been radical changes within our government. >> do you see yourself as a patriot? >> i do.
you know, i think patriot is a word that's thrown around so much that it can be devalued nowadays. but being a patriot doesn't mean prioritizing service to government above all else. being a patriot means knowing when to protect your country, knowing when to protect your constitution, knowing when to protect your countrymen from the violations of and encroachments
10:54pm
of adversaries and those adversaries don't have to be foreign countries. they can be bad policies. they can be officials who, you know, need a little bit more accountability. they can be mistakes of government and simple overreach and things that should never have been tried or that went wrong. >> did you say earlier you were still serving your government? >> yes. >> how so? >> when you look at the actions that i have taken, when you look at the carefulness of the program ares that have been
disclosed, when you look at the way this has been filtered through the most trusted journalistic institutions in america, the way the government has had a chance to chime in on this and to make their case, and when you look at the changes that it's resulted in, we have had the first open federal court to ever review these programs declare it likely unconstitutional and orwellian and you see congress agreeing
10:55pm
that massive surveillance, bulk collection needs to end. with all of these things happening that the government agrees all the way up to the president, again, make us stronger how can it be said that i did not serve my government? how can it be said that this harmed the country when all three branches of government have made reforms as a result? >> many in government say snowden should say for what he's
done whether or not he comes home. >> what do you miss about home? >> i think the only -- the only answer to something like that for somebody in my situation is, you know, what don't i miss? what would you miss? what wouldn't you miss? i miss my family. i miss my home. i miss my colleagues. i miss the work. because caught up in all these issues, people have unfairly
10:56pm
demonized the nsa to a point that's too extreme. these are good people trying to do hard work for good reasons. the problem that we are confronted with, the challenge that we are facing is not the working level guy, some mustache-twirling villain out to destroy your life. it's the fact that senior officials are investing themselves with powers that they
are not entitled to, and they are doing it without asking the public for any kind of consent. >> is what i heard you feeling bad for the damage to the nsa as a result of what you have exposed from the nsa? >> well, what you need to understand in what i was saying -- i guess not what you need to understand, but what i'm saying is not damage to the nsa.
10:57pm
it's the sort of conspiratorial that can emerge when there are abuses that lead us to think they can do no good and the government has legitimate programs and purposes and they can do great things. the nsa can as well. i think it's important to remember that people don't set their lives on fire. they don't say good-bye to their families, actually pack up without saying good-bye to their families. they don't walk away from their extraordinary comfortable lives. i made a lot of money for a guy with no high school diploma. and burn down everything they love for no reason. >> so you're a kid from north carolina and while i, after this interview, am free to fly back to the united states, you can't. does that hurt you?
10:58pm
>> i think no american could be prohibited from coming home or traveling anywhere else without feeling a sense of loss. but, again, i may have lost my ability to travel, but i have gained the ability to go to sleep at night, put my head on the pillow and feel comfortable that i have done the right thing even when it was the hard thing. i'm comfortable with that. >> a good number of americans, of course, feel that because of what they see as an act of treason, they sleep less soundly at night fearing this massive leak of secrets has endangered the country. there is more on the way. glenn greenwald says the next story he is going to public based on the snowden documents may be the biggest yet in terms of impact. s that is our broadcast for tonight. we're going to keep going in the studio to ask the question, in part to take on the same
10:59pm
question is snowden a hero or a traitor? we have assembled correspondents and former government officials to analyze what he just had to say and play some material from snowden that we have not yet aired. it will happen on our website nbcnews.com. join the conversation. it will start now and run for the next hour. and long after tonight's broadcast it will remain posted on the web as a companion to what we have just seen tonight. for the rest of you, your late local news begins now. for all of us at nbc news, good night from new york. right now, the local man who exposed nsa spying years before edward snowden. >> the government wants to cover this up. >> why he didn't have to flee the country. also, the power of negativity. how negative thoughts land you in the hospital. and the visa hiccup that can
11:00pm
ruin summer vacation plans for hundreds of californians. good evening. thanks for being with us. >> new at 11:00 tonight, if you just watched that exclusive interview with edward snowden, you may be surprised to hear that a bay area man sounded the alarm on the massive nsa program years before snowden did. and you probably have no idea what his name is. it's mark klein. what does he think of snowden's notoriety? >> he is fine with it. snowden has far more proof than he does. but mark klein is instrumental in a lawsuit, using his evidence to get the courts to stop the spying program. ten years before edward snowden revealed his bombshell, that the united states government was electronically spying on people